KOTA KINABALU: Autonomy for Sabah is what Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) is fighting for, said its president Datuk Seri Panglima Yong Teck Lee.
The principle of autonomy is not negotiable and if a formula to achieve autonomy can be worked out with other opposition parties, both from the peninsula and local opposition parties including Sabah STAR, then all should be able to move forward, Yong said.
Yong also said he was willing to contest under a Pakatan Rakyat coalition member symbol as long as they can accept the fact that there must be autonomy for Sabah.
Yong who was met at SAPP’s annual Chinese New Year open house on Monday said this when asked if it was acceptable for him that the party not contest in the 13th general election should Pakatan Rakyat gives the state autonomy and also issues Sabah identity card.
“If our manifesto including Sabah identity card and autonomy for Sabah can be accepted by Malaya parties, even I, Yong Teck Lee can contest under PKR symbol. Are you happy? Even I, Yong Teck Lee, can contest under PKR symbol if Anwar will promise autonomy in the Malaysia Agreement, in the Kuching Declaration and issue Sabah IC,” he said.
Meanwhile on the issue of different statements from PKR leaders and Pakatan Rakyat leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on the matter of seats discussion with SAPP, Yong said what was said was confusing.
“I have read in the last three days from Azmin Ali and Tian Chua that negotiations no longer include SAPP but now Anwar said he is still hopeful for some kind of compromise and he really wants SAPP to team up with Pakatan.
“These are the kind of very confusing, conflicting messages that we get from various Pakatan leaders and PKR. That makes life very difficult in our planning for the election. Our door is always open, only that we already have three senior leaders from Pakatan including APS president Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Bumburing saying that the door is closed, Azmin saying that PKR no more negotiating with SAPP and from Tian Chua that they are not worried about SAPP because SAPP will not be taking away votes from PKR.
“Our door is still open even when we heard that Azmin Ali closed the door, we say that ours is still open. There is no need to close any doors before the dissolution of parliament and state assembly.
“Anwar has re-opened the door that Azmin, Bumburing and Tian Chua had closed. We welcome Anwar reopening the door… our door has never been closed,” Yong stressed.
SAPP, he pointed out would like to have something more concrete, more solid, and added that the party’s stand was that seats division is negotiable but autonomy for Sabah is not.
According to Yong, Anwar in April last year did say that the majority of Sabah state seats could be contested by Sabah state parties and he also mentioned SAPP.
Now the exact formula on seats division needed to be worked out, he said.
Yong disclosed that SAPP’s first meeting with PKR was with Azmin Ali and Ansari in June 2009, when Azmin was appointed Sabah chairman, he was also the party national vice-chairman.
“After that there has been six changes of PKR chairmen for Sabah. In between the time of Dr Wan Azizah, I was informed by Azmin that Thamrin will also convey the formula to me. Now we have another statement from Azmin saying what we asked for is unreasonable so these are all very conflicting and confusing signals. We hope it should be cleared up in the next few days,” he said.
On the possibility of SAPP working with Sabah STAR should the deal with Pakatan Rakyat not work out, Yong said the party’s discussion with Pakatan and PKR is concurrent with its discussion with Sabah STAR.
“We are not excluding anybody. As I said before, there are some areas where Sabah STAR is much stronger than other opposition parties and there are some areas where PKR is stronger. PKR also admits that some areas where SAPP is stronger, therefore I think we should be wise enough to take into consideration the local strength of each party so that we don’t clash into all the areas.
“At the same time we are saying that the principle of autonomy is not negotiable, meaning that the state government must be formed and decided by the people of Sabah, not appointed by Kuala Lumpur. That is the core principle,” he said, adding that he made this clear to Azmin in 2009.
To a question if the deal was not working out the way they had hoped because of APS and PPPS, Yong was of the opinion that the whole formula with regards to the two NGOs headed by Bumburing and Datuk Seri Lajim Ukin was “very confusing”.
“That formula about NGOs masquerading as political parties and therefore contesting under the PKR symbol, how it works has never been explained. I am very confident that this is very confusing to SAPP as it is to PKR members.
“How does that work that PPPS, registered NGO and APS, unregistered NGO will also be contesting under PKR as a political grouping, how does this work? It has never happened before in Malaysia. That has to be explained, to be worked out.
“So does it mean that after the election they will be free to leave the opposition? Does it mean that Lajim may freely be allowed to change allegiance? As a group, they are not a political party. These are the things that have to be cleared up,” he stressed.
He also disclosed that in a meeting with Thamrin last year, SAPP was first offered six state seats and four parliamentary seats.
“I did not even bother to bring this to my supreme council because this is not even a decent proposal. Now Tian Chua says 60 state seats divided by six opposition parties under Pakatan and that means 10 each, it sounds like a perfect divide and rule.
“I have proposed this to SAPP Supreme Council for discussion. So the decision is that there is no hurry to make a decision on such a formula. We should tell them that we are standing for autonomy.
“It is not just the number of seats. It is also the principles that you fight for. For instance, with 10 seats and even if we win all the 10 seats, can you issue Sabah identity card with 10 seats? Pakatan will be contesting for 50 seats….they are going to contest in the whole of Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak.
“In Sabah they want to contest in 50 of the 60 state seats, leaving 10 to SAPP and none to Sabah STAR. Do you expect SAPP to be able to issue Sabah identity card with 10 seats? Can we hope for autonomy with 10 seats? Can we implement reforms with 10 seats? It is not just seats, it is the principles and struggles that we are standing for,” Yong stressed.